Counting the cost of a cruise (Part 3 of 5)

Dining and sightseeing options: At what cost?

The all-in cost of a cruise will almost certainly be greater than the price of the fare. In some cases, it can be significantly greater than the price of the ticket, taxes, fees and port charges. All this week, TheTravelPro is examining many of the options that add to the all-in cost.

Specialty dining

In addition to the restaurants that serve the meals included in the cruise fare, most cruise ships offers specialty dining venues. Our ship, Princess Cruises' Ruby Princess, offers three: a restaurant created in conjunction with a celebrity chef; a premium steak, seafood and chop house; and a gastropub.

The "Ernesto" burger
Dinner at Curtis Stone’s SHARE carries a cover charge of $39 per person and includes one item from each of five courses: appetizer, main dish, side dish, a cheese course and dessert. Beverages are additional but can be covered by the beverage package as long as the beverage costs remain within established limits. For guests with a beverage package, dinner at SHARE will add another $78 to the cost.

Dinner at the Crown Grill steak and chop house is a minimum of $29 per person or about $58 per couple. Beverages are additional if not covered by a beverage package. Dinner at The Salty Dog gastropub is $19 per person, or another $38 per couple.

A fourth option is breakfast or dinner catered to our stateroom. Different than simple room service, which is included in the cruise fare, the catered dinner is a four-course meal that includes champagne and is served in courses at a table set up on our veranda if weather permits, or inside the stateroom if we prefer. That option carries an additional cost of $100.

Cruise lines will occasionally offer specials, and we were able to take advantage of one that included the all-inclusive beverage package and one specialty dining for two at one of the three venues.

Specialty dining is truly optional. The ship has a main dining room that caters to those who prefer “traditional” cruise dining: a set time each day at the same table and the same servers. It also has two “any-time” dining restaurants where passengers can dine whenever they choose during the restaurants’ opening hours, as well as a half-dozen casual dining outlets offering pizza, burgers and dogs, cafĂ© and bistro fare, and wine bars, all included.

Shore excursions

The biggest surprises to me as a new cruise patron was both the number of shore excursions available and their cost.

Our cruise will call on Ketchikan, Tracy Arm Fjord, Juneau and Skagway, Alaska and Victoria, British Columbia. We can simply get off the ship and follow our noses (which is what we will most likely do), or we can choose from a dizzying array of options. In Ketchikan, our first stop, there are 33 tour options ranging from $35.95 per person for a local walking tour to $369.95 per person for a six-hour halibut fishing tour.

The only option at Tracy Arm is to explore the fjord in a 130-passenger vessel, which will allow a much closer view of the fjord and glaciers than for those who remain on the cruise ship. That excursion is $229.95 per person.

Options at the other ports of call are equally overwhelming, with 46 tours to choose from in Juneau (price range: $33 to $1,999.95 per person), 16 in Skagway ($39.95 to $299.95 per person) and 13 in Victoria ($29.95 to $169.95 per person).

If a couple was to take the most economical shore excursion at each port, that would add almost $750 to the total cost.

A closer look at more available on-board features in our next installment.

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Photos by Carl Dombek
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